It’s carnival time in Notting Hill! Floats, soundsystems and dancers dressed as giant winged creatures take over London’s most affluent neighbourhood again this August bank holiday (this year Sunday 28th and Monday 29th) – with crowds of 2.5 million set to tag along too.
Want to know more? Read our 2011 Notting Hill carnival guide below to get the lowdown on Europe’s biggest street party. It may be finishing early this year, but that won’t stop the good times rolling…
The carnival sprawls out around the float parade, which starts at the Great West Road and loops round Westbourne Grove and up Ladbroke Grove. The parade runs on both Sunday, Children’s Day (when teen and kid performers rule), and Monday, where awards are dolled out to the best floats.
Floats carry soundsystems, steel pan and calypso bands, while mas (masquerade) bands made up of costumed musicians and dancers take to the road on foot. You can line the street to watch, or dance along behind whatever soundsystem tickles your musical fancy.
Check the route for the closest tube stations to the parade.
You won’t be able to move for street stalls selling Caribbean delicacies: jerk chicken, curry goat, rice and peas, fried plantain, ackee and dumplings are all on the menu. Food comes piled in polystyrene trays and is eaten sitting curbside with a slightly ineffectual plastic knife and fork. Embrace it.
When Notting Hill Carnival started in the 1960s, it was all about the floats and parade. Static soundsytems, which turn roads into open-air clubs, started up in the ‘80s, and there are now around 50 at carnival every year. It’s a bit like having an invite to 50 free, amazing parties, but choose early as wandering between them at your leisure isn’t really an option – the crowds are huge, and those streets are narrow…
Music played ranges from reggae and ragga to house, garage, r’n’b, hip hop, drum ‘n’ bass and dub – anything with a beat you can dance to, really! Here are three vids of popular soundsystems to help you choose…
USP: Been going since ’94, the carnival’s only dance music outpost
Music: Drum ‘n’ Bass, Garage, Hip hop, Rap Reggae
USP: gets the stars: Dizee Rascal, Sean Paul Mos Def, Ms Dynamite and Katy B have popped up in recent years.
Music: dub reggae
USP: it’s been going since 1975 and was set up by legendary raggae artist Mikey Dread
Check out the full list of soundsystems and where to find them at Notting Hill Carnival 2011 here
Parties and after-parties
Carnival is free – but if you’re dying for that “I’m on the guestlist” feeling, there’s always Red Bull Academy’s August 29th party under the Westway. With Major Lazer Soundsystem headling and a secret guest on the cards (MIA and Santigold have appeared in recent years), it just might give you wings. Tickets go on sale August 11th.
After the sun goes down and floats go home, the party goes on… and on… if you’ve a strong constitution, here’s where to move on to:
Sunday: Paradise in Kensal Green (about 20 mins walk from Notting Hill) is hosting an after-party with Ms Dynamite. If you want to get out of carny-town altogether, the Deadly Rhythm Carnival Special down south at Plan B in Brixton keeps the vibe going with dancehall DJ David Rodigan.
Monday: Wesbourne Studios hosts an after-party in the heart of the action just off Westbourne Grove, with a set from X-Press 2. A hop and a skip north to Paradise again and you can dance away to oldskool garage from DJ EZ.
Cheap Hotels and Hostels
We’ve still got a few cheap London hotels and hostels left for carnival weekend. Take your pick below:
- Crowne Hyde Park Hotel in Paddington has doubles from £86.62prpn
- Youth Hostel in Earl’s Court has dorms from £16.93pppn
- Hostel 639 in Kensal Green has private four-beds for £115.48prpn, and dorm rooms from £13.94pppn
Words: Isabel Clift
Are you going to carnival this year? Let us know in the comments…